What's A-Parent

Mom's Photo Of A Pile Of Dishes Shows How Depression Can Manifest

"This is what depression looks like."

While mothers-to-be often spend the months leading up to their child's birth preparing for the influx of dirty diapers and sleepless nights, few are truly ready for the unspoken struggles that can arise. In recent years, postpartum depression has gained increased awareness, yet few know what it's like to live with the symptoms until they're in the thick of it. That's why Brittany Ernsperger chose to share an example of her own battles via Facebook in an effort to normalize what so many mothers face each and every day.


In her now-viral image, Ernsperger displayed an enormous pile of dishes on her kitchen counter. While the dishes were clean, Ernsperger emphasized that there were so many because she'd gone two weeks without washing a single one.

"[Three] days ago, I sat on the kitchen floor and stared at them while I cried," Ernsperger wrote. "I knew they needed to be done. I wanted to do them so bad. But depression pulled me under. It sucked me in. Like a black hole. Rapidly, sinking quick-sand."

"I walked by them morning and night and all day long. And just looked at them. Telling myself that I could do them. Telling myself that I would. And feeling defeated every day that I didn't. Making the depression only that much worse because not accomplishing something that needs to be done is failure," she added.

Terms like "failure," "incompetent," and "stupid" ran through Ernsperger's mind, as well, further exacerbating her depression.

"Throw anxiety on top of it, and you've got yourself a real treat," she explained. "Being scared your husband will leave because he thinks you're lazy. Being scared to let people into your home because they'll think you're nasty. Feeling like you're failing your kids because for the 3rd night in a row you don't have any clean dishes to cook dinner on.. so pizza it is. Again." 

"And the worst part of it all, it's not just with the dishes," she wrote. "The laundry, cleaning, dressing yourself, taking a shower, dressing your kids, brushing your and their teeth, normal everyday tasks. It all becomes a nightmare. A very daunting task. Somedays it doesn't get done at all."

Ernsperger specifically chose to share her experience because she wanted to fight the stigma that views depression as weakness. "Depression is something that 'strong' people don't talk about because they don't want people to think they're 'weak,' Ernsperger wrote. "You're not weak. You've been strong for so long and through so many things, that your body needs a break."

"It is so beautifully honest," Dr. Ken Duckworth, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, told TODAY. "She puts it all right out there … and I think that is really compelling." Duckworth also noted that the Facebook post revealed some of the lesser known symptoms of depression and anxiety — negative self-talk and not being able to complete daily tasks — bad emotions keep people stuck in an unhealthy cycle.

"People feel very overwhelmed by the demands of daily life," Dr. Holly Swartz, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, told TODAY. "It is kind of a double-whammy. The depression makes it hard to get things done and the depression makes you think that you are a bad person for not being able to do them."

As Ernsperger concluded, she didn't write this post in hopes of garnering sympathy. Instead, she did so to inform other mothers that they're not alone in their struggle and that there's always someone out there who knows what they're going through.

"I'm not looking for sympathy, not in the slightest. But I am letting everyone know that I'm here for you. I get it," she said. "If you need someone to talk to, I'm always here to help."

Cover image via OndroM / Shutterstock

(H/T: Scary Mommy)


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